The volume of incoming international phone calls through the legal channel in Bangladesh plunged in three and a half years amid growing number of over-the-top (OTT) and illegal voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls.
In May, 2015, the volume of incoming international phone calls recorded highest 383.23 crore minutes with a daily average of 12.36 crore minutes.
The call volume, however, dropped to around 102 crore minutes in November this year with a daily average of 3.4 crore minutes.
Doubling of internet use in three and a half years amid extended rollout of 3G and 4G services by mobile phone operators helped Bangladeshi expatriates make low-cost OTT-based phone calls instead of making traditional costly voice calls, BTRC officials said.
The number of internet users in the country increased to 9.25 crore at the end of October this year from 4.74 crore at the end of May, 2015.
Besides, the government’s surprising decision to increase cost for international incoming calls in February this year was also responsible for the sharp decline in international call volume.
The daily average incoming international call volume was 5.4 crore in February this year. The government in February this year increased international call cost by setting a tariff range of 1.75-2.5 US cents from 2 US cents (Tk 2).
In July, 2016, average incoming international call was 8.23 crore minutes per day while the figure was 11.29 crore minutes per day in July in the previous year.
A few days before the new call rate was introduced in Bangladesh, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in January of the year 2018 reduced international call charge to Tk 0.38 per minute from Tk 0.67 per minute with a view to containing the app-based international phone calls and illegal VoIP calls thus encouraging international calls through the legal channel.
Against the backdrop of declining volume of international calls, the BTRC in April, 2017 had initiated a move to lower the international call termination rate to 1.5-1.6 US cents.
The telecom regulator, however, failed to implement the decision mainly for opposition from influential quarters.
In April this year, Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited issued a letter to the telecom ministry opposing the new directive on international call termination rate, fearing a drastic fall in the international call volume as it apprehended that the new ICTR would prompt illegal VoIP and mobile application-based calls.
Amid falling incoming international call volume, the telecom regulator in last few months carried out extensive drive against illegal VoIP.
At a press briefing in October, BTRC officials said that they detected six illegal VoIP installations where 10,947 SIM cards of different mobile phone operators were found along with equipment worth around Tk 37 lakh.
Of the SIM cards which were used for illegal VoIP calls, 5,075 were of state-owned Teletalk, 3,897 of Robi, 1,414 of Grameenphone, 426 of Banglalink, 120 of Rangstel and 15 of Banglalion.
BTRC, in another statement issued in November, said that it detected and captured 77,590 SIM cards of Teletalk on suspicion of being used in illegal VOIP business.
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